“The Collapse was predictable. It was not an act of God or Nature. That this was predictable heightens our pain. The event is not in the past, it is in the present, [while it also] lives in people’s memories and in their pain. We live with that collapsed dam in people’s hearts.” – Auxiliary Bishop Dom Vicente de Paula Ferreira, to the International Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Brumadinho Dam Collapse
The International Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Brumadinho Dam Collapse released its report, “270 Deaths Foretold,” on Monday, February 17. The commission, organized by the International Commission for Labor Rights and supported by International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW), the Association of Labour Lawyers of Latin America (ALAL), the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers (CALL) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), of which the National Lawyers Guild is an affiliate.
The six-member delegation included Jeanne Mirer, co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild International Committee, the President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the President of the International Commission on Labor Rights; Micol Savia, the permanent representative of the IADL to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva; Mexican labor lawyer Oscar Alzaga of the Latin American Association of Labor Lawyers; Frank Luce of the Canadian Association of Labor Lawyers; former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels; and Richard Spoor, South African attorney representing communities impacted by mining.
They investigated the impact of the January 25, 2019 Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil, making an urgent visit in July 2019. They issued a preliminary report on this environmental and human “atrocity” after four days of meetings and hearings with officials, family members and affected communities. As noted by ICLR, “Community members and workers were not so much killed and/or traumatized by a wall of iron ore tailings as by a culture of corporate non-compliance, cost-cutting and concealment.”
The dam was owned and operated by multinational corporation Vale S.A., the largest iron ore producer in the world. In 2018, just before 270 lives were wiped away in the Brumadinho dam collapse, the company reported $6.8 billion in profits.
The report’s title indicates that the scope and extent of the destruction was entirely predictable due to this corporate negligence. It calls on state and federal governments and the judiciary in Brazil to apply human rights principles to help deliver desperately-needed justice to the victims of the dam collapse.
“270 Deaths Foretold” includes original testimony from a broad cross-section of communities affected by the dam collapse, including the perspectives of a leading Catholic bishop, family members, social movement leaders, Pataxó-Hã-Hã-Hãe indigenous community representatives, and union representatives as well as meetings with state legislative investigators, a labor prosecutor, and federal and state legislators.
The Commission calls for full consideration of all prosecutorial options against what it calls the environmental and human “atrocity” of this dam collapse.
The Commission further warns of the dangers of privatization in remediation of environmental and human disasters, and calls for an end to corporate control of funds for disaster settlements and remediation and calls for public airing of all information and actions.
The report emphasizes “the perverse calculus of corporate risk-taking, which undervalues human life.”
As the report notes, “In short, “270 Deaths Foretold” is a call for living justly by ensuring that the rule of law is applied forcefully against wrongdoers, and with effective remedies for all the injured. The Commission hopes that by pursuing its recommendations, Brazilian authorities can help to provide some solace and justice to survivors of the Brumadinho dam collapse and radically transform a corporate culture of noncompliance.”
English report (PDF):
Spanish report (PDF):
Portuguese report (PDF):